In this episode of the Personal Profitability Podcast, we welcome guest Jeffrey Trull, an online writer who started his career with an engineering education, got a non-profit job, left to freelance full time, and recent went back to a full-time employer. Get his entire story, filled with lots of useful information, in this week's episode.
- Jeffrey Trull's Website
- Jeffrey Trull on LinkedIn and Twitter
- Money Spruce (Sold to New Owner Since Recording)
- Get Rich Slowly
- Copywriter Conclave of Portland
- Hobby to Business: How to Grow Your Hobby into a Serious Income Source
- 5 Things to Consider Before Taking the Leap into Self-Employment
- My Move from Denver to Portland
Join us for a Beer!
Eric's Beer: Hopsmack IPA from Cascade Lakes Brewing Company
Jeffrey's Beer: Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewery
Eric Rosenberg: Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, children of all ages, welcome back to The Personal Profitability Podcast. I’m your host, Eric Rosenberg and I’m so excited to have you back here with us again today. Today, we have a very special guest, one my good friends. Well, I am so excited he was able to come in and join us. His name is Jeffrey Trull. Jeffrey has a very interesting online history that I think a lot of you could learn a lot from that’s why he’s here with us today. He started out with a regular full-time job, just like most of us have or have had. And then begun working on his own site income streams, doing online writing, which developed into a pretty big business so big that he was able to leave his full-time job and work for himself full time, which he did for quite a while. And then just, actually, in the last few weeks, he took another full-time job. He went back from being a self-employed online entrepreneur to someone working at a company. That’s kind of unusual journey so Jeffrey is here today to talk to us about it. Say ‘hello’, Jeffrey.
Jeffrey Trull: Hey, Eric. Hey, everyone. Glad to be here. It’s exciting. I think it’s one the first few podcasts I’ve done. It should be fun.
Eric: Well, welcome to having your voice on the internet.
Jeffrey: Looking forward to it.
Eric: So, everybody as you are aware, if you’ve been listening for a while, this is your opportunity to hit the “pause” button and go grab your beer, so you can have a beer with us. Cause personal finance should be fun and you know, not some boring mundane and things. Here’s your pause moment.
Okay, your pause moment’s over. Welcome back. I hope you have something tasty and good. If you’re driving a car or at work, where it’s not allowed, obviously, you don’t want to drink a beer. If you’re sitting at home, listening with your headphones or whoever you’re with – with your friends, with your dogs. I hope you’re enjoying something good. I, myself, am having a beer that was new to me, just last week. It’s called “Hopsmack” from Cascade Lakes. It’s a local Oregon brewery. I like my IPAs and I like my Oregon beers living here. Cheers for Hopsmack! What do you there on your end, Jeffrey?
Jeffrey: I also have a beer from Bend, Oregon with me. I have Deschutes Black Butte Porter, happily comes from the sixth largest craft brewery in the country, which is getting even more loyalty to recently because of some of the big beer buy-outs that have been going on. I’m so happy to have Deschutes here making great beer in Oregon.
Eric: Here’s a virtual clink. Cheers to Deschutes…
Eric: …and to Oregon beers.
Eric: I don’t know if people can hear me gulping —
Jeffrey: I can’t so I’m assuming no else can, too.
Eric: I don’t know if that’s like good radio or bad radio etiquette to hear me swallowing on the internet.
Jeffrey: That was pretty authentic at least.
Eric: I know. It’s real. I’m doing it.
Eric: You’ll also hear my squeaky chair probably when I move around. I should work on that.
Eric: Anyway, we’ll jump into the good stuff so let’s start out by just getting little bit about your history and your background. I know we met through FinCon, at the very first FinCon because you have a blog called “Money Spruce”, which I know, you don’t do quite as much with today. Can you just tell us a little about Money Spruce? How you got started writing online and the journey you’ve had with that site?
Jeffrey: Sure. So, maybe many freelancers or people in this area get into personal finance interest and things. I kind of have a wacky background. I started off as an Engineer, actually. I have two degrees in Engineering – Civil and Environmental Engineering. So, not really a whole lot of a writing background. Just a little bit doing on school newspaper and tutoring and stuff. I started Money Spruce after. I really was a fan of “Get Rich Slowly”. I was reading a lot of JD’s writing. I was like, ‘wow, this is really interesting.’ And as I got kind of bored, when I finished grad school, I was bored at night. I couldn’t be studying all the time. I was working at AmeriCorps at that time so my job ended at 5 p.m. I’m like, ‘geez, what am I going to do with all this extra time?’ Well, why don’t I start a blog and write about something I’m interested in. I think, I started a bicycle blog actually, I’m really into bicycles, for around a month. And I was like, well, I don’t know what this is really going to turn into, especially in terms if I ever hoped to make money from it. So, I started Money Spruce, like a month later. I believe that was back in the end of 2010 or early 2011. I just kind of turned it to my own place to write and have my own thoughts out there. After a little while it gained some steam. I get linked up on some pretty cool sites like Time Moneyland and some others. A few people started to notice and from there it kind of snowballed into getting offered some freelance writing gigs on the sides. That was really cool.
Eric: Great! So, I know, in that time, somewhere in there, you moved from the East coast to the West coast. And you know that I have a move story when I moved from Denver to Portland. You beat me to Portland by a year or so. What prompted your decision? Was there any career-related decision with your move? Was there a financial decision? How did you decide to pick up and move across the country?
Jeffrey: Yes. Actually, a lot of things happened all at once but it was pretty well planned out, thankfully. And things went according to plan. After a while, doing some freelancing on the side and probably around the time I met you, Eric, I decided that, I’m think I’m going to try to give this freelancing full-time thing a go. About eight months ahead of time when I actually ended up quitting my job, I started saving up money, what I called “I-quit-my-job fund”. Basically, so I could just have some money to transition from being an employee to being a full-time freelancer. After saving up – I’ve saved about $8000 – just strictly so as I could make the leap to being an employee and being a freelancer. I quit my job in May 2012. At that time, I was living in Connecticut. I was like, well if I’m quitting my job and I can work from wherever I was as a freelancer, why don’t I give somewhere else a try? After some friends or a friend of mine in particular who grew up outside of Portland, Oregon and doing some research, and admittedly watching the Portlandia TV Show and loving it. I said, “Hey, I’ll give Portland a try. I love bicycling. I love drinking beer. There’s great vegetarian food. There’s great outdoor stuff. It sounds like a great city for me so why don’t I give Portland a try? I’ve been living here ever since. It’s been great.
Eric: You know, something funny about Portlandia, before I moved here, I thought it was funny and I enjoyed it, but I didn’t totally get it. There’s some jokes were just lost to me. I was like, it’s kind of stupid. I put it up to being kind of a corny show. Then, I re-watched those same episodes after I moved here. Now, I have totally new appreciation for it. I was laughing quite a lot more watching them in Portland. My favorite was that there was an episode, where they had got up to stop sign at the same time. It was like, “You go ahead”, “No, you go ahead” and they did that for like three hours before they hit each other. That feels like when it’s like driving here sometimes. Everyone’s super courteous.
Jeffrey: Yes. That’s pretty much my favorite scene as well. It’s too true to even imagine. It’s so funny it happens like every day to me.
Eric: Except when they run the stop sign out of my corner but that’s a whole other story, I guess.
Eric: Different Portlanders.
Working Full-time for a Nonprofit
Eric: Back to the business side of things. You had a full-time job in Connecticut. Was that in line with your educational background in engineering type of work?
Jeffrey: Actually, no. It wasn’t. After I finished grad school, I got my Masters in Engineering. I decided that I wanted to do something a little bit different so I took a job working for AmeriCorps Vista. If you’re not familiar with it, the way I describe it, it’s sort of like a Peace Corps except it’s in the United States. Basically, I worked at non-profit for a year as a “volunteer” in New Haven, Connecticut. During that time, I just got paid a stipend, which was probably, I think, about $1200 a month. Not very much to live on, which was a challenge but it turned it to be a good one in terms of learning to live frugally. So, I was doing that, I did that for a year. Then, that same non-profit hired me on for about another year after that and so I quit that job and decided to do freelancing full time.
Eric: So, that was the job you had while you were saving up your $8000 quit-my-job-and-move fund?
Jeffrey: Yes, exactly. Working in non-profit, I didn’t get a whole lot, but I learned to live pretty lean after that year of AmeriCorps Vista. When I took the job with the same place from when I got paid at AmeriCorps Vista, I think my salary like tripled over night or maybe more than that even. I wrote a few posts about it on Money Spruce. It was pretty interesting how much it changed and how it really impacted my view on how much money you need to get by.
Eric: If you don’t mind sharing, how much were you making in that non-profit job and did you have enough freelance income when you left to totally replace it or you’re part way there? What was your feeling? How did you know it was okay to leave and you’d make it?
Jeffrey: At that non-profit job, my salary was $45,000 a year. Not whole lot but pretty decent, I think.
Eric: For a lot of cities, that’s a lot. I don’t know East coast. That doesn’t go quite as far as it as somewhere like, I don’t know, Iowa.
Jeffrey: Yes. Probably not but I had a pretty good living arrangement in New Haven so I paid pretty much blah, back over housing. I think my rent was only $400 a month. We shared a pretty small place with a couple of roommates. I definitely could have been paying more, but I deliberately chose not to pay more. I didn’t have a car at that time. I decided not to. My car died a year before I decided not to buy a new one so I kept expenses pretty lean. I was pretty much able to put away half of every pay check, at least half. I just take half the pay check. Actually, I paid off all my student loan debt right away before I started saving that I-quit-my-job fund. That was really huge in terms of quitting my job and easing the transition to freelancing. When I started freelancing full time and I made the jump, I didn’t have enough income coming in to replace my full-time job. That was kind of part of the plan. I didn’t expect to either. I just didn’t think that was going to happen. It turned out to be, and I think, this is one of the biggest lessons I learned in freelancing is that finding a work isn’t as easy as you think all the time. It’s not just a matter of suddenly deciding today that I want to find more work today and then putting in a time to find that work. It’s kind of a long cumulative process of marketing yourself, which turned out to be more difficult than I thought out of the gate.
Eric: There were a couple of great lessons that you said in there. One, you’re saving 50% of your income while making a pretty modest salary in a not-so-cheap area of the country to live. If Jeffrey can do it there then you, guys, can do it, too, out there. That’s a great lesson to learn.
Transition to Freelance Work
Eric: When you started the full-time freelancing, what was your typical monthly income there? Did that grow as you built your portfolio up?
Jeffrey: It was a pretty load to start ahead really just one primary gig out of the gate. I was working for, it was a personal finance-related blogging site. I think, it was something pretty obscure that nobody would have really heard of, but I think they paid $350 a week to write three blog posts. At that time I thought, “Wow! That’s great!” That’s like a hundred fifteen and change per blog post. This is great. Actually, I wasn’t sure I want to take it out of the gate but then I thought, I can’t turn this down. It’s a great opportunity. So, I had that, which is good to have some income. I was pretty focused on doing that writing and I was enjoying my new-found freedom a little bit after my job. I wasn’t exactly pounding the pavement to find more work right out of the gate. I just moved out to Portland. It was summer time and I’m like, “Well, it's summer. This is great!” That was pretty much my only income for the first several months. As you can imagine, I was dipping into my quit-my-job fund a decent amount. I can’t say exactly what my monthly budget would have been at that time. My housing situation was still pretty cheap in Portland. I found a sublet for $600 a month including utilities. That’s not too bad. Luckily, I found someone that could, it was actually my Jenna, to take me in, because I didn’t know anything about Portland. That worked out really well. It was a little bit tough out of the gate because I didn’t have a whole lot of work. At the same time, I’m really glad I had that money saved up strictly for the purpose of making the transition.
The Challenge of Finding More Freelance Work
Eric: So, as your money fund was slowly dwindling down after you moved, was there a point that you’re financially like, “Well, I have to get more work” or did that become like a natural evolution as you were settling in?
Jeffrey: There’s a few points where I felt like I had to get more work. I think the real challenge I faced was that I didn’t know how to get more work as well I thought I’d knew how to do it.
Eric: What did you think you knew? What were your tough lessons learned and how did you overcome that?
Jeffrey: I really thought it’s just a matter of like, A: putting in the amount of time to find the work and B, getting my name out there by writing on more sites. And, I think for A, just finding more work, I thought, alright, I will just scour job boards and things like that. That was actually how I found my primary gig at that time, the one I just described a few minutes ago. I found them on the pro-blogger job board. I’ll just keep looking there and look at other sites like that. If I apply enough places or email enough places, something’s sure to work out. I spent a lot of time doing that and it wasn’t that simple. Either other sites weren’t willing to pay me as much or pay me what’s worth my time or I just didn’t hear back from people, or there’s a lot of competition. I think it’s pretty competitive area. Probably, I underestimated that a little bit so I think that was definitely a big challenge that I wasn’t really prepared for.
Finding High Paying Clients and Turning Them into Regular Clients
Eric: How did you overcome that? What was your next step? How did you start finding those clients?
Jeffrey: I really spent more time figuring out how to market myself better. And I think that’s something… there’s just something to that I just didn’t… I really didn’t have a marketing background. I wouldn’t call myself like the biggest hustler out there, however, you want to describe it. I’m not the type of person that is really forward about marketing myself or talking about what I can do or talking about how great I am at something. It doesn’t really come naturally to my personality. I joined a few different online communities, where I was able to talk to people that were going through the same thing I was, learn from which resources they were using and try to figure out how I can come up with a better marketing plan to really find the gigs that I want to find. A part of that was joining more in-person marketing events, which I’ve had mixed results with in the past. It turned out, of the blue, one worked out really well that I ended up going to. Pretty randomly run into somebody that or met somebody that I didn’t know before and they were looking to hire a copywriter to do some writing for their website. That turned into a pretty big gig. I think it was something like $6500, which was the largest project I’ve ever done that time. That kind of got the wheels turning in my head. You don’t really know when these clients are going to come about. You don’t know when these moment are going to strike. If you keep trying to do different things and diversifying your approach, it gets easier and easier. One of that main lessons I learned is that you just have to have a lot of irons in the fire. You have to just keep them in there for a while before they get hotter. I don’t know how to complete the analogy there. It just takes a lot of different approaches to marketing to really find the work as what I found.
Eric: That $6500 client, was that a fixed-term project? Was there any recurring future with it? How did that work? How did the discussions worked when you were getting started?
Jeffrey: That was my primary first fixed-term project to release one anywhere closed to that size. Basically, the conversation was that it was a workable community college here. They were pretty much looking to redo all their web content. It’s primarily copywriting, not so much like blog post writing or that kind of thing. Basically, what they asked for was what it would cost to do the copies for these landing pages for their website which is where perspective students would go and find out more about the class and then hopefully, fill in their name and email or something like that to get more information about the class. It’s kind of a lead generation page for the community college. The idea was that I would write the copy for these pages. I think I did it for about 13 different programs which had different business goals for each one. They are all like small business-related classes. That was pretty interesting.
Eric: What were your next client stories after that? Did you get more fixed-term projects? Did you find more recurring projects? How did you build up your income to support your life?
Jeffrey: Thankfully, most of the clients I’ve worked with have been recurring monthly clients. That was the case for up until I just recently started my job that I’m working at now. That’s why I’ve been in the Keig and I really like finding recurring clients a lot better because you don’t to keep marketing yourself. You don’t have to worry as much about where your income’s going to come from every month. On those fixed-term projects, they’re going to end eventually and then you have to replace that income somehow so you have to really have some real leads in the pipeline pretty much all the time, or you’re not going to make any money. Most of the clients I had were monthly clients. For those kinds of clients, blogging does lend itself fairly well to recurring monthly work because they want new content all the time to either entertain or to keep their customers happy and interested in their business or to attract new customers through search engines or social media or those types of things. Primarily, most of my clients have been monthly clients where they pay me X number of dollars per blog post and I provide X number of blog posts a lot. That can range pretty widely, I think somewhere as little as one blog post a week or four blog posts a month, anywhere up to 10 blog posts a month. They’re really dependent on the client.
Eric: At your peak, how many blog posts per week do you think you were writing?
Jeffrey: I never got too high. I’m not a super-fast writer. I’m not someone that just cranks stuff out really fast. I prefer to go for quality and spend time researching and doing a good job. Not to say that people who write fast don’t do that. I think, at the peak, I probably got to…not too many…probably eight blog posts a week. It was pretty manageable.
Eric: Two a day-ish?
Jeffrey: Yes, I’d say two a day max. It was a pretty good pace for me. I could pass schedule off my day and I could probably still turn around most blog posts in three hours, four hours max.
Eric: In those times when you were at your peak client levels, what kind of income were you making? How much were you making compare to that non-profit job that you’ve left?
Jeffrey: At the peak levels, I was getting paid anywhere from $200 to $350 per say, most clients didn’t really have a strict word limit but say about 800-word blog post. On the upper end, those are pretty good rates. Some of lower end clients I’ve kept around just because it was pretty to turn out those blog posts. They’re a little bit easy to write. They take less time. The overall income I was making close to $60,000 a year, roughly about $5,000 a month in revenue, that’s pre expenses.
Tips on Managing Multiple Clients
Eric: How many client do you know at any point of your peak number of clients was that you’re working with a time? How did you manage those relationships to keep everything straight?
Jeffrey: I think that my max is four clients at a time. It can get a little bit hectic but honestly, I think I was more blessed at least compared to other people, more lucky in terms of the clients I had. They’re pretty easy going. I’m not really someone that likes to be in a lot of meetings or things like that. Only one of my clients was actually local. Most of my clients never really required to have weekly meetings or even monthly meetings. That kept things pretty easy. All the communication is pretty much by email. We can just go back and forth on blog post topic ideas or revisions or things like that and they schedule calls as needed. I think keeping things to minimum made things a lot easier. I think that checking in a lot, too, is pretty helpful by email. I tried not to just communicate with them just when I needed something. That makes it a little more difficult. I don’t think that’s a great relationship that way. I think, other than that, my key was really to map out all week’s work ahead of time, either Sunday night or first thing Monday morning. I have a list of basically everything I need to do that week. I know roughly how long it’s going to take me to write a blog post. I work in 15-minute blocks so maybe I’ll take three 15-min blocks to get a blog post finished. I’ll make sure I have enough time to schedule that throughout the week for each blog post for each client that I write for. It’s just in terms of time management, just being sure that I can keep on track of my weekly goals and monthly goals so I can meet the needs of every client.
Favorite Task Management Tool
Eric: Do you have any favorite tools that you use to help map out your days in your calendar? Outside of your email, do you use anything like a Sonar or Trello or one of those task managers?
Jeffrey: I’m actually just a big Evernote user. In terms of mapping out my daily and weekly goals, I just have a note on Evernote that I just update every week. It’s probably silly but I really like the fact that I have a check box feature. I really like checking things off. I used the checkboxes in Evernote. It’s pretty manual in that sense. I don’t really schedule out my time in the sense that I’m like, “Okay, from 9 to 10 a.m., I’m going to be working on this project. From 10-11 a.m., I’m working on this project.” I have found in the past that that creates a little bit more frustration for me than it does help me. I try to avoid doing that. Instead, I try to just lay out what I need to do for the day the best I can in terms of how much time it takes. From there, I just do my best to complete my six daily goals. I have about six a day.
Eric: As you developed all of these and started working with more clients, did you still give much attention to Money Spruce? Did that help you find more clients or did you find more clients other ways? Were they referrals? How did you grow your business?
Jeffrey: That’s really interesting. At one point, that was probably a year ago or so or maybe a little bit longer, I have decided like “Hey. I think I hit the max or hit the ceiling on what I can do in terms of personal finance. I was a getting a little frustrated with some of the clients half of time or at least it just wasn’t actually working out that well. I thought of actually get out of personal finance all together. But then an interesting thing happened and that’s that clients or prospects even leads kept coming to me through various means. Even with the intention of shutting off the personal finance writing a bit, I have a batch of new clients come in. I think one of the things that I do at least when I’m not super interested on working it for them well, I just threw out a really high number that I don’t think they’ll accept. More often than you think, they just say, “Okay”. And then you’re like, “Well, I guess I will do this project.” I did get some leads. I don’t know if any came directly through the Money Spruce site, but actually it did have a weird lead come through someone that just Googled name, as like a testimony on the site, just Googled my name, like Jeffrey Trull Money Spruce and tracked me down then found me that way. It was kind of funny. I had another client found me on LinkedIn because I’ve written for a competitor there and since I stopped writing for it, there wasn’t really any conflict of interest or anything. They just found me purely because I’ve posted writing for this other company on LinkedIn. I’m actually part of local writer’s group here in Portland called the “Copywriters Conclave of Portland”. That’s actually been really nice source of leads, too, because all the writers – there’s just about 12 of us – have a bio on the Copywriters Conclave website, where people can go through there. Actually, our site for our group ranks number one in Google for Portland copywriters. I actually have some clients come through there and find me and some other leads I ended up working with, but that’s been a pretty good referral source, too.
Eric: Do you have a website of your own just about your freelance business? Or did you —
Eric: Okay. Can you share what that is to people who are listening, who may look you up and see what you do?
Jeffrey: Sure. My writer business website, which I think I’ve had for probably like 3 years or so now, is jeffreybtrull.com. B as in Bob for my middle initial. I couldn’t get it without that, but jeffreybtrull.com is my writer website. It’s pretty basic, but I think it’s been a huge key to getting clients. It’s really important for you to have a place where you can showcase your work. So I have my portfolio page on there that shows some of the best work I’ve done. It doesn’t even show all the work I’ve done now to just really too much to put up there. So I built on my portfolio page with kind of the work that I’ve enjoyed doing the most and the work that I want to find. Prospective clients have been able to look at that and see my abilities and that kind of thing.
Eric: Did social media help you find any clients at all or did you have to use that for any client purposes or has that just been, like the need in little tweeting or whatnot, is mostly for fun?
Jeffrey: Yeah I mostly tweet is for fun. I don’t think I ever really got any clients through Twitter or anything. I did get that one client that I mention through LinkedIn. So I think that’s probably my only real social media successes that I can point to but I’m not really big on social media in general. At least for me I approach it mostly from a kind of fun way to share standpoint and I felt like a lot of people kind of approach it the same way so I’m not sure it is always the best environment for conducting business. It really depends on what platform you’re on but for me I haven’t really found it to be a really effective strategy to finding clients.
The Opportunity to Work Full Time Again
Eric: So as you shifted for…I knew you had one client that became a really big client which led to a full-time job. Why did you decided to give up on the freedom of freelancing and take a full time job? Was the compensation enough to make up for what you were giving up? You still keep anything on the side of the main job, any of your old clients or you’re just full time on your new job?
Jeffrey: I’ve been full-time freelancing or had been for almost three years, it would have been three years this coming May. I’d never really pictured myself going back for a job. There were a few times during this period. There were lots of ups and downs, trust me. As you may have gathered from my earlier part of this conversation. But I never really ambitioned going back to a job but I’d always thought my head like, ‘well, the right opportunity came along I would definitely consider it.’ Sure enough one of my clients, Student Loan Hero, right now I work for, Andy, who’s the CEO, approached me a few months back and he is saying, ‘were growing very fast would you be interested in coming on full time?’ and I’m like, ‘well, I’ll think about it.’ We talked about it a bit more and I waited for him to send me an offer letter and so I got the offer, and I’m like, ‘this is certainly pretty close to what I am making as a freelancer to consider going on full time’ and like I don’t really like getting a job or what’s that going to be like. A few things sealed a deal for me on taking the job. Number one is that I still get to work remotely which I love about freelancing and about this job now. I have my own office. It’s about two miles from my house in Portland. I share with another small agency so I have some people to be around. But basically every day, I get on with my bike, I bike two miles to my office. I work there from 9-5. I take breaks, go to food carts. Talk to people when I want and when, you know, it’s time to work I have a place to concentrate that isn’t my home. Yeah, I surely like working remotely. A huge part of that is that I can still travel, too. I go home, I’m from the East coast originally, I forgot if we mention that, but all my family is on the east coast so I go back several times a year to visit them. It is nice to have the option to work from there for a few days if I need to. The remote working part was definitely a huge part of deciding to take this job. Secondly, I get a plenty time off which is another big part. Right now, I have about four weeks paid vacation a year. That is really huge for me. I still love to travel and just having some of those freedoms I had as a freelancer. I mean, in 2013 I traveled for about three months out the year, so giving that up would be really hard for ten days of paid a year or something like that. Having more like a month off is a lot more easier to manage. And then third, the compensation was pretty good. It was comparable to what I was making as a freelancer. With the added benefit that it is guaranteed more or less every month, as long as I have the job at least, versus you know when clients leave, you ran out of work; you just don’t get any more money when you’re a freelancer until you find someone to replace them. Something it was is, was nice to have the security after a while and just really focus on working or having to spend…
Eric: Hey just heard my doorbell and my dogs barking at my doorbell. I have no idea who here. My wife is checking it. Maybe we have a package or something that be fun.
Life as a Freelancer
Eric: So anyway you mention you work in an office space, and a lot of full-time freelancers like to work at home, some do some coffee shops or bookstores or whatnot. Did you try working at home before or what lead to work in an office space?
Jeffrey: Yes, this is really funny I think about all the time. I mean it kind of not really the specific story, but you know. When I was waiting to quit my job and I was, ‘Yeah, it’s going to be awesome. Like I could just work from home, I’m going to be in my pajamas and I can work whenever I want, like if I don’t want to work in the afternoon, I can just work at night or I can just have this really weird schedule. Just work it around all my social engagements, it’s going to be awesome, it’s going to be great.’ So I thought that it was going to be so cool going into being a freelancer, all these stories. Then once I started freelancing I found out that I might not like those things as much as I thought. The first few months I was like trying to work from home and I’d get really distracted. I’m like a refrigerator-peruser person so whenever I get bored I’m like, ‘Let me go see what is going on in the refrigerator’. So I’d make plenty of trips down stairs.
Eric: Did it change very often between trips?
Jeffrey: I think in my mind it always did before I got there. You always think you’re going to find something new.
Eric: The beer delivery guy came while I was working…
Jeffrey: I know right! There wasn’t even anybody home when I was there despite my roommate. I just distract myself being at home. I get like being lonely, like no one’s around, it’s so quiet, there is no one to talk to, this kind of stinks. Working with pajamas is okay, but then you start to smell bad after a while so.
Eric: What was your longest time without changing out pajamas? Did you ever have like three or four days in a row?
Jeffrey: No, I don’t think I ever did that. I’m a pretty social person so I go out at night a lot. I obviously didn’t go out in my pajamas. But you know maybe a couple of days or something like that. But yeah, when I tried, you know, working at coffee shops and I think I literally only tried working at a coffee shop like three times in Portland. And Portland is like the land of coffee shops but I just really don’t like it. It’s just like too noisy for me. Coffee shops, along with the library, I’m like when I have to go to the bathroom I have to pick up my laptop and bring it with me or there is someone like stealing it. And the hours are kind of weird sometimes. I’m in the coffee shop like I had to buy stuff. I just didn’t really feel like comfortable at any of those places. After struggling doing that for like six months I got to find somewhere else to go. So initially I joined a co-working space. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s kind of just a space where a bunch of different solopreneurs, freelancers or remote workers go to work. Sort of like an informal office, but everyone just kind of pay like a monthly fee to work there. There might be something like 20 people there at any given day and people rotate in and out or whatever. So I just go there, that was a little further away, but I’d bike over there. You know I decided I like working regular hours. Working 9 to 5 actually suits me a lot better because it’s in syncs with everybody else’s social schedule. Like I said I like to go for happy hours and things. Versus when I didn’t try to keep a nine-to-five and I’d be like, yeah I’ll just work whenever I’d be up; 11PM like frantically finishing a blog post that’s due at 8AM the next morning or something. So just having the schedule and having the place to go and having the social aspect of it, you know, enjoying lunch, talking to other people or just having a little chit chat during the day or something like that, improved my quality of life a lot more and just made freelancing in general a lot more enjoyable, even more productive to be honest.
Eric: So along the way did you have any big personal finance lessons you learned or anything you still struggle with?
Jeffrey: I think one of the biggest struggles as a freelancer is figuring out how to plan for a regular income. I’ll be honest that’s not one that I really figured out all that well. I think it would be challenging just to figure out how to pay yourself. I initially started out as a sole proprietor so all my clients paid me, Jeffrey Trull, and so I just deposit it into my regular bank account. But over a year ago I switch over to an LLC, so I paid my LLC and that money would go into a business bank account then I would pay myself from that. So it helps things a little bit but it’s still a little bit hard to kind of predict your income and kind of budget accordingly when you are not always sure how you’re going to get paid. I think ideally having an emergency fund or having some sort of backup fund is hugely important. I would definitely recommend always having cash reserves for probably at least three months, living expenses as freelancer. But again that can be easier said than done. If you’re just getting started and you don’t have a whole out of money in the bank but trust me it will save you a lot of stress later if you can have that reserve ready. I think just the other challenge is to be dealing with taxes. Can be a huge pain. Just figuring out how, you know as a freelancer, you’re a business and you’re allowed to take business expenses and stuff but don’t forget you can owe more money too. You owe both sides of Social Security or whatever you call it so you have to pay I believe about 13% instead of 6.5% or something, I don’t know if that sounds about right, Eric.
Eric: I think that’s right. It’s close, if it’s not right on, it’s in the ballpark.
Jeffrey: So you owe a little bit more in terms of those taxes, I mean if you want health insurance, you have to pay for it yourself. You don’t have an employer who is going to pay for it for you. You know my office cost money. I have to pay $200-$300 for that every month. If I want to go on business trip, those are expenses. Write offs are great and everything like that, that’s a huge plus but it also makes it a bit harder to see the big the picture especially if you’re getting started and you’re close to the threshold or below the threshold of making the amount of money you need out cover the bills every month.
Eric: This is a great story. Thank you so much for sharing it with me and everyone else. I know a lot of your story because we like to hang out. Jeffrey is a really cool guy. He came to my bachelor party at my wedding. I know he knows how to party hard and we’ve done it totally together. He also is obviously very professional and does well with his own business dealings. We will say a lot on this website on the blog post and in the podcast. You can pick up some stories. There’s lots of great ways you can earn money on the side. As you see Jeffrey turned that into a full time job. You can do so much and there’s are a lot of great benefits to that. The freedom of being able to travel, to go wherever you want. Three months a year of traveling is a pretty amazing thing. Jeffrey has gone to Thailand for an extended trip. He has done some great things.
Having a Full Time Job (Again) and Future Plans
Eric: Now that you have a full time job again, but with that location independence, do you have any big plans? What’s next for Jeffrey Trull?
Jeffrey: I don’t have any big travel plans right now. I’m flying out to the east coast though on Friday for my cousin’s 30th birthday so that’ll be fun. I got some pretty fun conferences lined up. I actually just signed up for the Copy Blogger Authority conference in Denver in May. But I think I’m going to, thanks to my remote working, I’m gonna bump that trip out on the end a little bit and kind of extend my stay and work from Denver Boulder for a little while. Other than that just looking forward to enjoying the summer here in Portland again. I pretty much locked myself down because the weather is so nice. That’s one of the best kept secrets out here.
Eric: Well don’t tell many people our secrets. Everyone’s moving here anyway.
Jeffrey: I know.
Eric: I was one of them, you were one of them. We’re both transplants.
Eric: Well anyway thank you so much for your time and sharing your great story with us. I’m picking up my Hopsmask IPA to give you a virtual cheers to Jeffrey and everyone else listening. So thank you so much for listening and being a part of it. Listeners out there, I know I’ve mention it before, but if you could get a chance to give us a rating on iTunes it would be very appreciated or any other place you listen or what not. It’ll take you just a few seconds but it means the world to me and helps get the word out about the show and the website. And until we speak again next time. Stay profitable. Have a great day.